Super Compensation and Tapering

Super Compensation and Tapering


Super compensation has a bittersweet memory that will forever be with me. Let me explain. Super compensation is the theory that once you have had adequate recovery from training, you can start another training cycle at a higher level of intensity and your body will adapt, get stronger, leaner, and healthier.

Super compensation is synonymous to “post season training” for me. When I was a professional soccer player, we would complete our season and if we qualified for the playoffs, we would have a three-week break between our last regular season game and our first playoff game. During the three weeks off, most teams took a break and then resumed a regular training schedule that would have reflected the in-season schedule. We, however, did not ...

For the first three days after our last regular season game, we didn’t have to do a thing. It was on the fourth day that “hell” started. At 6am, we would run Davern Hill on repeat. Ever been to Davern Hill in St. Paul? Horrible!! After the hills, we would train again at noon, followed by a strength session on the field. Not over yet ... we would then have a 6pm session that would always be at a random location; a park, a beach, one time we did a session at the old Metrodome. Stairs, sprints, and buckets for puking! So while other teams were just training normally, we were killing ourselves.

The complaining was rampant among the guys on the team. It varied from how were totally overtraining to how we would get crushed in playoffs because we were tired and sore. Thankfully, for the three days before our first playoff game, we were able to rest up. We showed up on fire to the first playoff game each year! Faster, stronger, quicker,and more fit than opposing teams that were clearly better than we were in the regular season. How was this possible?

Super Compensation!

What was happening physiologically was that we were allowing adequate recovery before we entered into a monster training cycle. During that monster training cycle, we were pushed beyond our capacity, and then given adequate recovery again. Our bodies adapted and got better.

We cannot "super compensate" all the time, as it would lead to overtraining (see my blog on overtraining), but a super compensation cycle can be effective when programmed correctly and timed right. For those of you participating in the Fit Nation 21-Day Challenge, get ready. It'll be filled with challenges designed to push you beyond what you have done in the past.  For those who aren't participating in the challenge but work out at FIT, pay attention!  You'll be working out right along with challenge participants. 

In preparation for the Fit Nation workouts that begin on Monday, October 19, I highly recommend that you taper your training the week before we start. Here's what I suggest in terms of backing off your normal workout schedule prior to the 21-Day Challenge:

  • 7 days prior to our start date, begin to slowly decrease the high intensity training that you would typically do at FIT. This might mean coming in and doing a workout, but not pushing yourself for time.
  • 5 days prior to our start date, follow the 60% rule. This means anything you do should be at about 60% of max intensity or load.
  • 2 days prior, don’t do anything except maybe go for a walk and work on some mobility. 

Come on in to FIT, and the coaches will help guide you on what is right for you in each of these tapering phases